The Corner

Why Not Abolish the Department of Education?

In his appearance last Sunday on Fox News, Donald Trump reiterated that he would abolish all or part of the Education Department. News reports have implied this is another example of Trump’s extremism, but — in this case, at least — it may reflect the good sense of a businessman.

As in the private sector, government agencies should be required to justify their existence with hard evidence of their effectiveness, not merely feel-good mission statements. That rarely happens. Instead, the default position held by most politicians is that any government agency that exists should go on existing. We need to reverse that mindset, assuming that no agency will be funded unless it can prove its worth to the taxpayer.

Take the Education Department. It has a multi-faceted mission, but one basic test of its effectiveness must be whether American students leave school better at math and reading than they would have been in the department’s absence. It is not clear that they are. On the long-term National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), American 17-year-olds made some gains in math in the 1980s, but scores have been stagnant for the past 25 years. In reading, scores have been mostly flat since the inception of the NAEP in 1971. Not an impressive record.

This is, of course, a superficial look at the data. There are many more intricacies to be analyzed, including demographic changes and the tendency for scores to rise among younger students before falling back in high school. I am open to persuasion by a more sophisticated analysis, but there is no prima facie case that the department is worth its $87 billion per year price tag.

That should concern people much more than it does. Our elected representatives should be breathing down the necks of Education Department officials, holding hearings, conducting investigations, setting up formal evaluations, and threatening to cut funding unless the department can prove it is getting results.

But instead they just sign the checks.

Jason Richwine is a public-policy analyst and a contributor to National Review Online.

Most Popular

White House

The Damning Inspector General’s Report

It is hard to believe that the run-up to the presidential-election year has plumbed such a depth of farcical degradation. It must be that Trump’s influence has contributed to unserious responses, but he can’t be blamed for the unutterable nonsense of his opponents and the straight men of the political class ... Read More
White House

The Damning Inspector General’s Report

It is hard to believe that the run-up to the presidential-election year has plumbed such a depth of farcical degradation. It must be that Trump’s influence has contributed to unserious responses, but he can’t be blamed for the unutterable nonsense of his opponents and the straight men of the political class ... Read More
Elections

Diversity Panic Hits the Democratic Field

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. An Asian guy, two black guys, three white women (one of whom spent much of her life claiming to be Native American), a Pacific Islander woman, a gay guy, a Hispanic guy, two elderly Caucasian Jews (one a billionaire, the other a socialist), a self-styled Irishman, and a ... Read More
Elections

Diversity Panic Hits the Democratic Field

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. An Asian guy, two black guys, three white women (one of whom spent much of her life claiming to be Native American), a Pacific Islander woman, a gay guy, a Hispanic guy, two elderly Caucasian Jews (one a billionaire, the other a socialist), a self-styled Irishman, and a ... Read More
World

The U.K. Elections Were the Real Second Referendum

In the end, it wasn’t close at all. Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party met a fate to which it has been accustomed for most of the last half-century. Once again, the British roundly rejected socialism. Boris Johnson and his conservatives will form the next British government. This was no slight rejection. Labour ... Read More
World

The U.K. Elections Were the Real Second Referendum

In the end, it wasn’t close at all. Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party met a fate to which it has been accustomed for most of the last half-century. Once again, the British roundly rejected socialism. Boris Johnson and his conservatives will form the next British government. This was no slight rejection. Labour ... Read More
Law & the Courts

The FBI’s Corrupt Cops

White-collar criminals should hope for one thing this Christmas: that they get to live under the Horowitz rules. Michael Horowitz has testified that he found no evidence of political bias on the part of the decision makers who, under the Obama administration, relied on hilariously implausible “evidence” ... Read More
Law & the Courts

The FBI’s Corrupt Cops

White-collar criminals should hope for one thing this Christmas: that they get to live under the Horowitz rules. Michael Horowitz has testified that he found no evidence of political bias on the part of the decision makers who, under the Obama administration, relied on hilariously implausible “evidence” ... Read More